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Wine of the week: Robert Biale, 2017 R.W. Moore Vineyard, Napa Valley Zinfandel

THIS WEEK’S BLIND TASTING: Press Democrat Pre-ZinEx Tasting

TOP PICK: Robert Biale Vineyards

Robert Biale Vineyards, R.W. Moore Vineyard, Napa Valley Zinfandel, 15% alcohol, $60. ?????

A striking zin with complexity and depth. It has layered aromas and flavors of blackberry, blueberry, herbs and a hint of toffee. The Biale is dense yet elegant, which seems like an impossible feat. A blockbuster with grace? But winemaker Tres Goetting knows what he’s doing by cultivating balance with his intense, full throttle fruit. It’s a knockout.

Tasty ALTERNATIVES:

Kokomo, 2017 Pauline’s Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County Zinfandel, 14.9%, $36. ????1/2: A jammy zin with generous fruit –– cherry and pomegranate –– and a hint of clove. Ripe tannins. Sassy.

Quivira, 2016 Black Boar, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County Zinfandel, 14.9%, $48. ????1/2: An impressive zin that’s both complicated and balanced. Weighted to black fruit with some high-toned notes of cherry and plum. Flavors of toast and herbs also in the mix. Bright acidity. Nice length.

Martinelli, 2016 Vigneto Di Evo, Russian River Valley Zinfandel, 16.3%, $35. ????: Red fruit dominates with raspberry and red plum. Layered notes of cinnamon and clove give this zin complexity. Lingering finish. Well crafted.

Hartford, 2017 Russian River Valley Zinfandel, 15.6%, $40. ????1/2: This is a gorgeous, no nonsense zin with layered flavors of black cherry, raspberry, white pepper and mocha. Concentrated. Lingering finish. Impressive.

Are you a zin-lover who's planning to make your yearly pilgrimage to the ZAP (Zinfandel Advocate & Producers) ZinEX Grand Tasting this Saturday? Or perhaps you're a zin fanatic who can't make the trek this year. Either way, our Press Democrat pre-ZinEX tasting will pique your interest.

From a generous outpouring of zins, there was every incarnation imaginable, from lean to powerhouse and everything in-between.

The standout was a bottling that seemed to find middle ground –– the Robert Biale, 2017 R.W. Moore Vineyard, Napa Valley Zinfandel at $60. The Biale is dense yet elegant, which seems like an impossible feat. A blockbuster with grace? But winemaker Tres Goetting knows what he's doing by cultivating balance with his intense, full throttle fruit. This striking zin has layered aromas and flavors of blackberry, blueberry, herbs and a hint of toffee. It's a knockout.

“For this particular wine, I rely solely on the vineyard and Mother Nature,” Goetting said.

The winemaker said it's the old vines in the R.W. Moore Vineyard, dating back to 1905, that deserve the credit.

“Old vines are like people,” Goetting explained. “With age they become more refined, more sophisticated and more elegant. Young vines are rougher around the edges. They have a more angular fruit profile. There's something about it that's impossible to explain, but that's the mystery that I love.”

Zinfandel, Goetting said, is not only misunderstood, it's underappreciated by consumers.

“I don't think that most people realize that zinfandel –– when grown and produced properly –– can make very beautiful, elegant and sophisticated wines that are dry and not too high in alcohol,” he said.

Goetting, 48, joined Napa's Robert Biale Vineyards in 2013. He graduated from Humboldt State University in 1997 with a bachelor's degree in Agricultural Sciences. Goetting's credits include a stint at St. Helena's St. Clement and Ladera Winery as well as at Napa's Krupp Brothers.

“I like to make zinfandels that have finesse, and I try to simulate a Burgundian winemaking approach,” Goetting said. “I do it because I want the wine to taste like the vineyard where it was grown.”

For the curious, there will be hundreds of pours to satisfy every taste at the ZinEX Grand Tasting in San Francisco from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at Pier 27. For tickets and details about the ZAP rollout of events, visit zinfandel.org.

Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at peg.melnik@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5310.

THIS WEEK’S BLIND TASTING: Press Democrat Pre-ZinEx Tasting

TOP PICK: Robert Biale Vineyards

Robert Biale Vineyards, R.W. Moore Vineyard, Napa Valley Zinfandel, 15% alcohol, $60. ?????

A striking zin with complexity and depth. It has layered aromas and flavors of blackberry, blueberry, herbs and a hint of toffee. The Biale is dense yet elegant, which seems like an impossible feat. A blockbuster with grace? But winemaker Tres Goetting knows what he’s doing by cultivating balance with his intense, full throttle fruit. It’s a knockout.

Tasty ALTERNATIVES:

Kokomo, 2017 Pauline’s Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County Zinfandel, 14.9%, $36. ????1/2: A jammy zin with generous fruit –– cherry and pomegranate –– and a hint of clove. Ripe tannins. Sassy.

Quivira, 2016 Black Boar, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County Zinfandel, 14.9%, $48. ????1/2: An impressive zin that’s both complicated and balanced. Weighted to black fruit with some high-toned notes of cherry and plum. Flavors of toast and herbs also in the mix. Bright acidity. Nice length.

Martinelli, 2016 Vigneto Di Evo, Russian River Valley Zinfandel, 16.3%, $35. ????: Red fruit dominates with raspberry and red plum. Layered notes of cinnamon and clove give this zin complexity. Lingering finish. Well crafted.

Hartford, 2017 Russian River Valley Zinfandel, 15.6%, $40. ????1/2: This is a gorgeous, no nonsense zin with layered flavors of black cherry, raspberry, white pepper and mocha. Concentrated. Lingering finish. Impressive.

Peg Melnik

Wine, The Press Democrat

Northern California is cradled in vines; it’s Wine County at its best in America. My job is to help you make the most of this intriguing, agrarian patch of civilization by inviting you to partake in the wine culture – the events, the bottlings and the fun. This is a space to explore wine, what you care about or don’t know about yet.

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